If you saw the 2005 big-screen remake of The Honeymooners, you’ll be familiar with Mike Epps. The lanky, Indiana-born comedian and actor played Ed Norton to Cedric the Entertainer’s Ralph Kramden.
Roger Ebert loved The Honeymooners (“Sometimes you walk into a movie with quiet dread and walk out with quiet delight”) but hardly any other critics did, although Epps’ take on the Art Carney role was often singled out as one of the bright spots.
That’s neither here nor there, because Epps, who’ll perform Friday in the Johnny Mercer Theatre, has been a successful standup comic for years, and was part of the original, groundbreaking Def Comedy Jam and its cross-country tours.
In addition, he played Day-Day in two extremely successful Ice Cube comedies, Next Friday and Friday After Next, and co-starred with Cube in All About the Benjamins.
Other film credits include Bait, the Fighting Temptations, How High, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Guess Who and Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Doolittle 2, for which he provided the voice of a bear named Sonny.
In an interview with ign.com, Epps explained how his world turned the first time he heard a recording – by accident – of Richard Pryor onstage:
“My Momma just never introduced it to me. When I heard it, I was like, damn! This dude, he's talking about some stuff that I believed in. I'm like, wow, this shit’s right up my alley. I kept listening to it.
“Then Def Comedy Jam came on, and I said, boy, I think I could do that shit. Them dudes ain’t funnier than me running around the neighborhood. They had a competition, and my friend said, ‘I’ll bet you 50 dollars you can’t go up there and make them people laugh. You funny around here, but let’s see if you can do that?’ I got drunk, went up there on stage, and had them dying laughing. I was like, shit I’m on to something.”
It wasn’t all champagne and cigars, Epps continued, at least not right away:
“I came back the next week, I went and bought a suit, got all spruced up, invited my family, and they booed the shit out of me. That second week I came back ... ‘Booo!’
“I'm looking at my family like, man, they weren’t like that last week. So I came back that next week, and I knew what I did wrong, and when I made them laugh that third time, I was like, I'm on to something.
“I left Indiana, and I ain’t been back since. I’ve been doing comedy and paying my bills.”
Mike Epps & Friends: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28 at the Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave. Tickets are $44 and $33 at etix.com.
And now, this
On Oct. 10, Soul’s Harbor will perform art the Live Wire Music Hall Oct. 10, part of the national 10th Anniversary promotion for the 10th anniversary of radio funnymen Lex & Terry. Tickets are only available through WFXH-FM, Rock 106.1 …
…Coming Oct. 23 to the Johnny Mercer Theatre: Medium, clairvoyant and TV star Lisa Williams (Life Among the Dead, Voices From the Other Side). The “show” will include live readings, for audience members, from the “Spirit World.” Tickets are $45, $55 and $65…
…Bluegrass giant Ricky Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder band will perform Nov. 20 at the Georgia Southern University Performing Arts Center in Statesboro…
… On a similar note, I caught a fantastic show by the progressive bluegrass outfit Mountain Heart a week or two ago at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingdale. These guys are unbelievable – see for yourself when they return to Randy’s Pickin’ Parlor Dec. 4…